I had arranged to collect Joyce from her hotel close to Derby town centre at 1.15pm and arrived to find her already waiting for me. We are soon on our way out of town and heading for Lichfield, some 45 minutes drive away.
I found the hotel where she was staying with Karsten and Paddy quite easily, possibly because Paddy was outside waiting for us! We are soon acquainted as this is the first time he and I have met. After a short rest, we made our way into town on foot as the hotel have agreed that I can leave my car there. Handy as that will save a parking fee!
We detoured to have a look inside Lichfield’s magnificent Cathedral and then promptly got lost trying to find the theatre. Found it eventually but, as it’s still not yet 3pm it is all locked up. Took the opportunity of familiarising ourselves with the layout of the place and particularly the stage door, then went for a look round the very quiet town.
In W.H. Smith’s we found “River of Dreams” on sale for £13.99 and placed at No.46 in their chart. However, Hayley's CD’s were actually in the number 53 slot until yours truly did a bit of housekeeping!
Back at the theatre, we were in the process of photographing the poster in the window with “Sold Out” plastered across it, when I happened to notice a familiar silver minibus approaching. “They’re here!” I shouted, and headed up the street after it.
Keeping a discreet distance away we waited whilst Richard tried to find a way in and it took several attempts to get a response at the stage door. Once this had been achieved, he returned to the bus which promptly disgorged it’s precious cargo. As soon as Hayley saw us she waved. “How are you?” I asked. This prompted a smile and a thumbs up from Hayley and a sigh of relief from me.
I didn’t think Hayley would want to talk but they had to walk right past us and as they did, Hayley stopped and greeted each of us in turn. Now I had been given a task for tonight (about which, more later) but I did manage to quickly get the gist of it over to Hayley and received a positive response in turn before they carried on inside.
Time now to find the Weatherspoon’s for our dinner and the opportunity of a warm and some friendly Hayley chat. I was again delighted to be treated to dinner by Joyce as a thank you for driving her down. Thank you Joyce, your kindness is much appreciated!
Returning to the theatre we met up with James, Ron and his wife and Steve. At 7pm the tannoy announced “The auditorium is now open” and we made our way to our seats. Mine, A9, is bang in front of Hayley's microphone stand and about six feet from it. Paddy is sat next to me with James two seats along. Joyce and Karsten are a little further back.
The local people seem very friendly and we are soon in conversation with the couples either side of us who have very quickly gathered that we are “fans” and we while away ‘the half’ chatting about all things Hayley and piling on as much information about her as we could. I hope we didn’t bore them because, by the time the concert started, I think the only thing we hadn’t mentioned was the colour of the curtains in Hayley's flat although, come to think of it, I don’t know the answer to that one either!!
As before, there is little that can be said about the concert itself as we don’t want to spoil this great evening of Hayley Gorgeousness for those that have yet to immerse themselves in it.
We had obviously been worried that Hayley may not be on absolute top form after the worrying news about her being unwell on Friday evening. Well, if she wasn’t, I don’t think anyone would have been able to tell. I did notice one discreet cough, and she omitted the Vocalese from “Now Is The Hour”, leaving it to Andy to fill in with a guitar solo, but other than that it was just another amazing Hayley performance.
There was one funny that I don’t think Hayley would mind me mentioning that happened whilst she was setting the mike at the piano for “Sonny” as she began to say “This is a song I wrote ….” And then stopped herself and continued with “What am I saying! No I didn’t! I’m loosing the plot in the middle of the show!!”
As is becoming the norm, Raven received very enthusiastic and well deserved applause during their pieces. I find myself watching the girls more and more as the concert progresses completely absorbed by their playing as they all seem to be.
I couldn’t believe the time had passed so quickly as Hayley launched into Wuthering Heights. “Huh!!? Are we there already?” And so the concert drew to a close. Lichfield did her proud with its applause and she came back “One more?” she asked “Would you like a Maori lullaby” – More applause followed by “Hine” and the concert was over.
I was asked during the evening why go to so many concerts when I know the set list is likely to be identical. The only answer I could give is that there is nothing better than hearing Hayley sing live. I was blown away just as much tonight as I was four days ago in Newcastle and will, for sure, be again in three days time in Northampton.
So we made our way out of the auditorium to meet up with friends and for me to collect a poster that I had been promised by the nice man at the sales desk, eventually drifting out into a drizzly night to see our special girl. We gathered by the stage door, but some were waiting around the corner where the bus was parked. Eventually, I spoke to one, a local, who seemed to think that the performers mostly exited via the kitchen and not the stage door. We bowed to local knowledge and repositioned ourselves.
During this time Stephanie came out to make a ‘phone call and then couldn’t get back in. I took the opportunity to ask about one of their pieces that we had discussed after Newcastle – the one called “Mrs Jamieson’s favourite”. Trying not to be too flippant, I asked if Stephanie knew who Mrs Jamieson was and what was the favourite referred to in the title. She didn’t know but said that she is intending to research this very old traditional piece so hopefully Raven will do what Hayley does and explain something about their pieces where this is relevant.
Sorry! I digress! The Raven girls appeared first and I managed to get Natalie (the one I missed in Newcastle) to pose for a photo. I got several others of the girls, although Rachel admitted to being camera shy. It seems she felt the picture I posted was not very flattering so I have now set myself the task of getting a better one, but at least it shows that they are looking at the forum (Hi girls! You were brilliant tonight!)
Activity behind the bus and by the waiting fans signalled the appearance of Hayley, who seemed very happy to see everyone and happily signed CD’s and programmes and posed for photos for a good twenty minutes.
And so to my task. I had known for some months that friends of mine would be at the concert, their first, and that they were not only Hayley fans but fans of the All Blacks. They had recently been in New Zealand and had found the spot that Hayley had made famous with her busking. They desperately wanted to meet her and had asked if I could arrange it.
A signing would have solved the problem but there wasn’t one. Luckily, I had had those precious few seconds with Hayley before the concert and had quickly explained. Now, at least, Hayley was aware. Also, Richard knew we would be waiting. This was going to work!
AS is usual with HWI, I waited until most of the local people had had their time with Hayley, then I introduced Gary and Chris. I was going to remind Hayley but there was no need, she had spotted the All Blacks tie and my job was done. The two of them chatted for several minutes about places they had been in New Zealand and I felt very pleased that I had been able to help round the evening off for them in such a special way.
I’ve also come home with a pocket full of Email addresses of people who I’ve photographed with Hayley, but hey! It’s all part of the service and if it helps to put a little bit more happiness in people’s lives, then it can’t be a bad thing.
With my ‘official’ duties complete, I turned my attention to getting my own programme signed “Shall I put ‘To Grant’?” Hayley asked without prompting. Yes! I know Hayley knows most of our names, but you’ve got to admit that being addressed personally like that is special isn’t it?
By now Richard is beginning to look anxious and keen to be away. Everyone piles into the bus with shouts of “See you in Liverpool!” or “See you in Northampton”. We wave frantically as they drive off into the night.
Another memorable evening consigned to the archives of HWI!
Thanks for your report and the photos of Raven.It strikes me that the group photo on the bus would be suitable for an album cover,something to add to your many talents.
Llike everyone I was most concerned about Hayley's health and was glad she made it to Lichfield.I even checked the forum during the night so see if anyone had sent an early report ,and of course you had.